Aid group World Vision has begin gathering relief supplies for thousands of people affected by last week’s twin disasters in Japan and plans to focus its ongoing response on the unique needs of children.
A three-person relief team, in Sendai since Monday, has begun procuring water, blankets and diapers to serve an initial 6,000 people in the city of Tome, some 190 miles from Sendai for distribution in the coming days.
"This situation is, understandably, very chaotic," said Kenjiro Ban, World Vision Japan’s manager for humanitarian and emergency affairs. "I’ve served on disaster response programs in Kenya, Sudan, India, Pakistan, Myanmar and Haiti and the needs I’m seeing in my own country are as bad as anything I’ve seen globally."
In addition to providing relief supplies, World Vision also likely will establish Child-Friendly Spaces in the affected areas. This program provides areas where children can enjoy supervised play and opportunities to express themselves in music, art and dancing. The structure and safety of these spaces protects children from some of the psycho-social impact of surviving a disaster.
"Last night, I visited one of the shelters housing some 340,000 people who have been evacuated around the city," said Mitsuko Sobata, communications and advocacy officer for World Vision Japan. "Children are sleeping on cardboard with one blanket in freezing weather. It was very difficult for me to see that. They’re tired and afraid, and the tragedy they’ve endured is overwhelming."
Tomorrow, the assessment team will travel to Fukushima, where nuclear contamination has forced the evacuations of tens of thousands of people. The assessment will inform how best World Vision can respond to the needs there.
World Vision is appealing for $10 million to fund its response in Japan, which may continue for several years. Currently, World Vision staff plan to focus their attention on providing vital relief supplies and Child Friendly Spaces, but the program will expand as new assessments are done and staff have a better understanding of the needs.
To donate, visit, www.worldvision.org; call 1-888-56-CHILD (1-888-562-4453); or text "4JAPAN" to 20222.